Austin – Jacco Gardner’s solo material has been out for just about a year, but he’s been perfecting his psych-pop craft for a while as a member of The Skywalkers. Choosing to go solo out of a desire for artistic freedom, giving his personality free range may be key to the successful execution of Cabinet of Curiosities, his debut record. I didn’t get to ask Gardner as many questions as I’d have liked in between his sets at SXSW, but as our short talk ranged from Disney’s The Black Cauldron to his appreciation of his 60’s fore bearers, I started to sense a personality that fits cozily into the headspace of psychedelic music.
Gardner describes himself as a dreamer, and he’s very laid back in person. More crucially, he has an organic interest in the immersive experience that, more than its sounds, defines psychedelic music. He can’t escape being classified as part of a psychedelic revival—and I didn’t get a chance to ask whether or not that label bothered him, though it seems like it wouldn’t—but he’s enough in-touch with the spirit of that music to write and sing without worrying what people choose to call it.
Will Jukes: How are you enjoying your South By?
Jacco Gardner: It’s really cool. Actually, it’s really hot.
WJ: You came up in an interview I did with Blossoms, actually.
JG: I’ve heard of them, but I haven’t heard them yet.
WJ: Their bass player, George Salt, told me to listen to you if I like The Zombies. How do you feel about the endorsement and the comparison?
JG: Well I love The Zombies, so that’s always cool. And I love really everything within that genre, it’s always really refreshing to hear. I always love being compared to that.
WJ: So you were in The Skywalkers before, and you set out on your own with the aim of achieving artistic independence. It looks like you’ve accomplished that. Is there anything harder about that?
JG: Well it’s all stuff I had written already, so it was really just a matter of finding the musicians to play it. Which they like doing!
WJ: Is it tough to find a band that’s willing to kind of follow your lead?
JG: It took a while, some people left, some people stayed, but the people that I work with now I’m really lucky to have. They’re really good musicians and they understand the music really well. I think we’re all really happy to be doing this kind of stuff (SXSW) all over the world, and for them that makes it worth it.
WJ: Is there anything they bring to your songs that you didn’t expect and you wound up really liking?
JG: Everybody has their own style, which is why I think it’s so much fun to play live. I get surprised by a lot of the things they add to it. When I’m alone in the studio I only get surprised by the gear I’m working with and not by the people, so that’s a very unique experience and it’s always very fun to work that way.
WJ: You’ve spoken a little in the past about the relationship between the psychedelic visual experience. What is it about that imagery that inspires a musical response?
JG: Well to me it’s always strange when people ask me that, because it’s like asking a squirrel why they’re a squirrel. I’ve always been a dreamer, and I’ve always had that state of mind. Going to that genre of music always felt very natural to me. I can’t see myself doing anything else, really.
WJ: Well, speaking of visual inspiration, do you find any inspiration in film?
JG: Totally. There are many films I find very inspiring. I love a lot of movies, but I guess the movies I’ve been into lately have been those 80’s Disney movies that, you know, weren’t very suitable for children I guess.
WJ: You mean like Black Cauldron?
JG: Yeah, or like Something Wicked This Way Comes or Return to Oz. They made some movies then that they didn’t really think through for kids (laughs) and they were way too dark, which I love.
WJ: Is there a juxtaposition there that interests you? Especially in terms of maybe the brighter colors of a kids film with the darker themes you’re talking about.
JG: Definitely, I’m always interested in that. I feel like for kids, the darkness feels similar to all of the lighter things. Their imagination works that way, and as you get older people stop really imagining things and you focus more, so the bright things become really intensely happy, and all the dark stuff turns into bloody nasty horror movies, and for kids it’s not like that, it’s just one big world. I really like that and it really comes out in the movies that are made for them, and it’s really cool to see in music too.
WJ: What music do you see that balance in?
JG: Definitely Syd Barrett, that’s the first place I really saw that. And Curt Boettcher too. A lot of stuff throughout the 60’s and 70’s. There’s an album done by Peter Howell and John Ferdinando about Alice in Wonderland, it’s for a play that was made into a movie, and it just turned out really creepy. It’s great!
The album he’s thinking of is Alice Through The Looking Glass. And if you click the link, I think you’ll see what he’s talking about: prettiness, marred by sadness, and a nostalgic feeling in spite of the latter.
If having those feelings in public appeals to you—it takes all kinds to make a world—Gardner is touring consistently from now until late July. Most of those dates are in Europe and the U.K., but North American fans will get a chance to see him starting June 10 when he kicks off a leg on these shores.